Learning the Hope Way
A new book features Hope as an example of a college that gets it
Hope is one of only 10 church-related colleges and universities
nationwide highlighted in Putting Students First: How Colleges
Develop Students Purposefully, which argues “that an effective
and ideal undergraduate college education is one that centers on
holistic student development, including the search for meaning
and purpose in life.” Published by Anker Publishing Company
Inc. of Bolton, Mass., the book was co-authored by Dr. Larry A.
Braskamp, Dr. Lois Calian Trautvetter and Dr. Kelly Ward.
“We are honored to be included in this book because it amplifies
what we attempt to accomplish every day with our students,” said
Dr. James Boelkins ’66, provost at Hope.
“Hope College has a long history of helping students understand
their calling by providing an intellectually rigorous academic
program, a comprehensive student development program and the
freedom to explore one’s faith in the context of a vibrant
Christian community,” Dr. Boelkins said. “We accomplish
this through a team of outstanding teacher-scholars and staff
who are dedicated to our mission.”
The 10 institutions highlighted were chosen, the authors note, “to
represent the diverse group of the 500 colleges that were founded
by one of ten church denominations,” and were included specifically
for being “individually and collectively distinguished and
distinctive in fostering holistic student development.”
“While the selected colleges are very supportive of preparing
students to be vocationally competitive locally, nationally,
and internationally, they argue for an education to be more,” the
authors state in their introduction. “We selected colleges
that intentionally assist students to ask and ‘struggle’ with
the fundamental questions in life while they are in college.”
Of Hope specifically, Dr. Braskamp in an interview explained, “We
knew of its fine academic reputation and it had a distinct mission
regarding faith and religion, and it also represented the Reformed
colleges—the Christian Reformed and Reformed.”
Dr. Braskamp is a professor emeritus of education with Loyola
University Chicago, where he also served as senior vice president
for academic affairs, and is a senior fellow at the Association
of American Colleges and Universities. He is a graduate of Central
College, which like Hope is affiliated with the Reformed Church
in America. As it happens, he previously experienced Hope as
a parent—one of his sons, David, is a 1990 graduate.
The institutions in Putting Students First range in size from
fewer than 2,000 undergraduates to more than 6,000 (Hope’s
enrollment this year is 3,141). The authors were deliberate in
presenting a variety of church ties, including Roman Catholic,
Presbyterian, Methodist, Lutheran and Baptist. Further, the schools
are spread across the country.
Putting Students First emphasizes three themes: that colleges
and universities are intentional in guiding students in keeping
with the institution’s mission, that colleges center on
helping students find their intellectual and moral purpose, and
that faculty are integral in fostering student development.
The book organizes its exploration by culture, curriculum, co-curriculum,
and communities in and beyond campus. Examples from each of the
10 institutions are woven throughout, with selected aspects of
the institutions treated in-depth. For example, Hope’s
Senior Seminar program, through which all graduating seniors
enroll in a capstone “life-view” course, is highlighted
in a two-page profile.
“If I were to name one curricular program that addresses
this issue of students developing holistically—that is, they
integrate their intellectual life with their faith development—that’s
an ideal program,” Dr. Braskamp said.
It is the way that the different dimensions of the colleges interact,
Dr. Braskamp said, that is central to the schools’ success.
“It’s the integration of ministry, of student affairs
and academic affairs that is very key to how the students view
life,” he said. “It takes a whole campus with whole
people to develop whole students.”
The climate of the campus is another crucial component.
“These are places that are rigorous intellectually and they
try to provide a safe environment,” Dr. Braskamp said. “We
spend a fair amount of time talking about safe environment, which
is an important element in any college setting. Students can
feel comfortable exploring, asking the big questions and coming
up with answers that they feel are their own as opposed to somebody
Faculty, he said, are crucial in the process as role models—and
students are learning from them not only in the classroom, but
also through the way they see them interacting as members of
the campus community. “Faculty are models and mentors whether
they’re aware of it or not,” he said.
Dr. Braskamp noted that he was struck by how well faculty at
the schools challenge and support students at the same time—and,
for that matter, by their dedication in general. “I was
impressed with how hard faculty members work on these campuses
and how much time they give,” he said.
Putting Students First is the culmination of a three-year research
project. The authors first collected survey information on more
than 250 church-related colleges and universities, subsequently
conducted interviews with more than 30 deans and provosts from
the institutions that participated, and then conducted in-depth
site visits of the 10 colleges and universities highlighted in
In addition to Hope, the colleges and universities featured in
the book are Bethune-Cookman College of Daytona Beach, Fla.;
Creighton University of Omaha, Neb.; Hamline University of St.
Paul, Minn.; Pacific Lutheran University of Tacoma, Wash.; The
College of Wooster of Wooster, Ohio; Union University of Jackson,
Tenn.; the University of Dayton of Dayton, Ohio; Villanova University
of Villanova, Pa.; and Whitworth College of Spokane, Wash.
Although the 10 institutions featured in Putting Students
First are all church-related, Dr. Braskamp noted that the common themes
that emerge from their experiences can readily find application
at secular schools as well.
“We used the concept of ‘faith development,’ which
to us is related to finding meaning and purpose in life,” he
said. “We also used the word ‘vocation,’ to
highlight the questions of ‘Who am I?’ and ‘How
can I serve others?’”
(This article, written by Greg Olgers '87, was first published
in the June 2006 issue of news from Hope College)